In the spring/summer Arizona’s native cottonwood, the Fremont cottonwood (Populus fremontii), drop their cottony seeds along Sonoita Creek creating a wintery scene. With so many seeds covering the ground it’s hard to imagine that the creek bank is not overflowing with young cottonwoods but the seeds are having a tough
time germinating. Drought stress, changes in hydrology, changes in the landscape, climate and invasive species all play a roll in seedling death. Cottonwoods stabilize stream banks, which helps control erosion, provide shade for wildlife and native fish as well as habitat for insects, birds and the predators that feed on them.
In February of 2016 six Friends of Sonoita Creek members planted eight live Fremont cottonwood stakes along a stretch of Sonoita Creek in the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve. Today only one survives. Some were scoured out during the flood of August 2016 and some were heavily browsed. One’s a start.
In August of 2020 eighteen more cuttings were taken from a recently downed cottonwood, seven of those were immediately planted along Sonoita Creek and eleven were taken to Borderlands Restoration where they are being tended by nursery staff until they can be put in the ground. This effort is ongoing so there will be future opportunities to help FOSC restore cottonwoods along Sonoita Creek.